31 Days of Horror: Eyes Without a Face

It's a dark night outside Paris as a nervous woman (Alida Valli) drives along a quiet road. She keeps looking at her passenger in the backseat. The passenger is wearing a trench coat and hat and appears to unconscious or at least in one of those endless sleeps that one never wakes up from. The car gets closer to the river and stops, the woman gets out and drags the body from the backseat into the river.

And so begins the 1960 French film Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage) - a tale so dark and twisted yet so beautifully photographed it's almost hard to believe that it's a horror story. But it is a horrifying story. Brilliant surgeon Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) is summoned by the police after the body has been found. His daughter Christiane has been missing - she was in a horrific car accident that destroyed her face - and was thought to be suicidal. Dr. Génessier identifies the woman as his daughter. The police are satisfied but puzzled. Another girl is also missing and except for the missing face the body is almost a perfect match.

Directed by Georges Franju, this film, despite it being somewhat subdued, still managed to cause quite a bit of controversy when it was originally released. It's not as gory as most of its modern day contemporaries but there are still a couple of very squeamish scenes. One of the scenes is a particularly nasty surgery scene that I won't go into details with. Needless to say it didn't get the praise that it deserved when it was initial released. In the U.S. it was cut and released under the title The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus. I'm not sure who Dr. Faustus is but that's the name that was chosen. The movie is available from the Criterion Collection uncut but a word of warning. The DVD contains Georges Franju's 1949 short documentary Blood of the Beasts (Le Sang des bêtes) - which takes a look at a slaughterhouse in Paris. You will never eat food again after watching this documentary - just stick with this brilliant horror movie.

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